What do you mean, “Rejoice”?

Repost about an event six years ago… I still haven’t learned to rejoice right away when yucky stuff happens. I want this to be my default mode, but I need to be reminded so often.

As a family, we are memorizing I Peter 4:12,  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” It goes on to say, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” I am not good at that: rejoicing-in-hard-stuff.

Gabe and I took a weekend off to celebrate our tenth anniversary (3 months after the fact) at a friend’s cabin. We had a nursling to take along, and my husband had such a severe Crohn’s Disease flare that he could hardly carry our luggage or the fat baby. It was raw and damp outside, brown dirt and chopped off cornstalks lining the driveway, a steep slope up the ridge begging to be hiked. I had packed the most tempting foods I could think of, and I grilled and cooked with care. He wasn’t hungry, picked at a few bites, and left the rest for me. We built a fire, played a game of Canasta, then he was tired. I put the baby down for a nap and tramped outside, my heart heavy with forebodings, my spirit rebelling against these circumstances. This was supposed to be our tenth anniversary celebration, after all! 

I was mad. Why weren’t our prayers answered? A whole year of nursing school yet… how could it possibly be better that my husband be sick? While the baby napped, I clawed my way up that steep ridge, tears stinging my eyes, self pity washing over me. What are we going to do if he never gets better? What if we will never be able to make plans again without adding, “If Gabe feels well enough”? How would we support our family if he can’t work?

The angry questions kept swarming, all the way to the top of the ridge where the turkey trails came out of the woods into the corn field. I stood there, my hands clenched, my heart screaming for answers. I felt the bitter core swelling inside me. “WHY, WHY, WHY?”

Did you know that God’s children can be incredibly rude and demanding sometimes, desperate, afraid, and He doesn’t ever turn His back on them? As I looked up into the solid grey cloud cover, my faith was so small it was hardly measurable at all. Miserably I waited for some reassurance that everything was going to get better, that life would be good and become easier. Nothing. No wash of love came over me. But I sensed this fact: No matter what (insert worst case scenario), He is there. Slowly my hands unclenched as the truth settled my soul. No, I didn’t understand, but I gave up trying and I believed. Slowly my heart softened in worship as I relinquished the control I didn’t have anyway. I threw down my worries with my drenched tissues in that forsaken turkey grazing field. They were biodegradable anyway. 

Maybe that is what it means when it says, “Rejoice.” Maybe it doesn’t mean, “Feel good.” Maybe it means, “Be glad that you don’t have to be big enough to handle this all by yourself.”

This is six years later. Gabe had an emergency bowel resection about a month after the anniversary celebration I was referring to, and has been dealing with the issues that brings up ever since. I want to say just this: God really has been with us, the entire time. I feel completely safe to stake eternity on that faithfulness.

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